Monday, October 3, 2011

Changing Our Book’s Game Plan

aug6-2006_travelling_in_EuropeI’ve worked with several different editors for the series I’ve written/am writing.

Each editor has been very different. I’ve actually really appreciated the differences because I’m getting a different perspective each time I go through an edit.

My editor for the new series has kept me on my toes. I’m not good on the phone (actually, I hate phones), so I usually try not to talk on one. I’m also someone who makes books up as I go along…I don’t outline.

This editor likes to talk on the phone and review outlines. :)

The process has probably been good for me. Although it’s been challenging.

Our last conversation, though, showed my discomfort with both phones and outlines, all at once. My editor said, “Yes, the story you’re planning sounds really good. But I was wondering if you could change the killer?”

Now, if I’d been emailing, I would have written something really polished back. I’d have said I was delighted to change the killer and here were three alternates. Did she have a preference?

Since I was on the phone, though, I said, “Uhhhhh….”

It wasn’t that I was upset about making a change. Actually, I frequently change the killer while I’m writing my book…or even after I’ve written it. Easy enough, because all the suspects have motive, means, and opportunity. It doesn’t really matter to me which one does it because I’ve set up up so any of them could have murdered the victim.

But the difference was that I hadn’t written this book out yet…it was an outline. And I was on the phone. And I hadn’t thought it through.

Once I’d recovered and told her I’d be happy to make the change and would email her the possibilities, I took a look at the outline. She’d blown my mind enough that I couldn’t even remember who the other suspects were.

I found, though, that if I changed the killer, it actually was going to make the mystery a lot more interesting. As I started exploring the possibilities, more ideas came to me. Some of the ideas weren’t going to work, but others were more interesting.

It really changed the entire book, since it was an outline. If I were just doing a revision of a finished book, it wouldn’t have probably changed it that much…because I’d just have tweaked it in a few places and rewritten the last couple of chapters.

I’m still no fan of outlines (even though this particular instance worked out well), but it made me think about the other project that I’m starting right now..the one that I’m not outlining. I always have a big-picture idea of a book when I’m starting out, a general direction I’m heading in. In fact, I usually write the back cover copy for a book before I start writing the manuscript.

Maybe I could write several completely different big-picture ideas for the new book. Wildly different from each other. And see which one I like best.

Do you come up with different outcomes of a book when you’re brainstorming? Or do you latch onto the first feasible idea you have (which is, ordinarily, what I do…although I frequently revise it later)?